Douglas judge won’t replace accused child molester’s attorney
Nevada Appeal News Service
MINDEN – District Judge Michael Gibbons told a convicted child molester on Monday that he cannot get a new lawyer to represent him in criminal proceedings from a 2004 crime.
James Hope, serving a life sentence in Washington state for a similar charge, has been in custody in Douglas County since July, accused of molesting a 10-year-old Minden girl in 2004.
The offense allegedly occurred while Hope awaited arraignment in Carson City accused of molesting two young sisters. He faces five felonies in the Carson City case, but has never been arraigned.
Hope told Gibbons he wanted a new lawyer because he thought Derrick Lopez was overwhelmed by his caseload and couldn’t give his case the attention Hope wanted.
Lopez said he had no difficulty communicating with Hope and believed he was representing him.
“I was surprised at this request,” Lopez said Monday. “I have no difficulty talking with him. With regard to him being dissatisfied, if he doesn’t have confidence, I’ve done everything in my power to represent him. His conclusion is wrong. He does face life in prison, but I am working for him.”
Hope waived a preliminary hearing in East Fork Justice Court and was expected to enter a plea last week to a charge of lewdness with a child under 14.
“His hope is that all the cases be served concurrently,” Lopez said.
Lopez said Hope wanted to “earn his way out of prison” in Washington when he comes up for parole in 2011. His parole depends on completion of a two-year treatment program for sex offenders and a psycho-sexual assessment that he is at low risk to offend.
Gibbons recommended Hope have an attorney to represent him in Carson City.
Lopez said Hope’s mother told him she had contacted John Oakes who represented the defendant in 2004 and he agreed to take the case.
At issue is the impact Hope’s Washington conviction would have on any sentence in Douglas County or Carson City.
In a plea agreement that Hope has not signed, Douglas County would drop the enhancement of life in prison without possibility of parole if he pleaded guilty to one count of lewdness with a child under 14.
That means he could be eligible for parole in 10 years.
In an unsigned agreement that Lopez received from Carson City, in exchange for Hope’s guilty plea to two of five felony charges, the other counts would be dropped along with the enhancement.
“If he negotiated that possibility away (life without parole), he will have done an excellent job for you,” Gibbons told Hope.
He would face life with possibility of parole after 10 years and a $10,000 fine on the Carson City charges.
According to the Carson City agreement, Hope would be on lifetime supervision and must register as a sex offender.
He would be subject to community notification and ineligible for probation.
He also would have to pay restitution to the victims for counseling.
Carson City would not oppose that the two counts run concurrently, but would have the right to argue that the sentence run consecutive to the sentences in Douglas County and Washington.
Lopez asked that the Douglas County deal be left on the table if Hope goes to trial, but prosecutor Kris Brown declined.
“If we go to trial, the offer is withdrawn and he can take his chances in both jurisdictions,” she said.
Gibbons urged Lopez to get the case on the Carson City calendar.
“We need to get this case moving forward and not just sit here waiting for something to happen,” Gibbons said.
He continued Hope’s arraignment in Douglas County until Oct. 22, but said he would be flexible if he has a conflicting Carson City court date.